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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

Tech savy domestic helps and working class individuals tell us who does Pune’s household chores

Having a good domestic help is indeed a blessing for present-day nuclear families with a working couple, children and the elderly to be taken care of. But alongside, the time has come for family members to chip in and share the household work effortlessly, as and when required

pune Updated: Nov 17, 2019 16:40 IST
Anjali Shetty & Prachi Bari
Anjali Shetty & Prachi Bari
Hindustan Times, Pune
Nanda Salve (polka dots), Jyoti Shirke, Ashwini Salve (cream outfit), Savita Salve (green saree), Surekha Kamble (red saree), Alka Dhonde (yellow blouse)
Nanda Salve (polka dots), Jyoti Shirke, Ashwini Salve (cream outfit), Savita Salve (green saree), Surekha Kamble (red saree), Alka Dhonde (yellow blouse)(HT PHOTO)

Last week, the visiting card of a Bavdhan domestic help Geeta Kale, went viral, driving home the reality of how times have changed. Kale’s attractively-designed visiting card listed out the chores she could do and the rates she charged. She was soon flooded with calls for her unusual approach. While the internet gave her a platform to ask for work and become an instant celebrity, we take a look at how drastically the task of doing household chores has changed in contemporary times

Their way or the highway

We have all suffered domestic helps who threatens to quit every now and then uses our predicament and helplessness to extract more pay and more leaves while continuing to do a shoddy job.

Then there was a popular television commercial which made waves for its take on the high-handness of domestic helps when it came to cleaning corners or doing extra work. The lady in the commercial demanded a ridiculous Rs. 11 lakhs to clean the house, especially the corners, which according to her were full of dengue-causing mosquitoes.

At the other end of spectrum are the highly dependable house-helps as is the one with homemaker Yatri Malvania, 61. She shares: “Our house help has been with us for a good decade now. She is very tech savvy and uses the phone to communicate everything. She prefers that I WhatsApp her if need to inform her of anything.”

Alka Dhonde, 63, has been working at a doctor’s residence for 40 years straight. She says that she started with a salary of Rs150 per month and today earns Rs 10,000. “I go there at 9 am and return at 3pm. I have been doing this for four decades now. They trust me with the house. I demanded a salary hike last year and they readily agreed. I will not allow anyone else to come here and do my work.”

But not all are as lucky and there are many families where the household chores are done by the family members themselves.

We do it ourselves: Family that doesn’t have a maid

Jyoti Jadhav (44) is an Senior development assistant (SDA) in NABARD and lives in Pashan with her husband Satish (46) and Shrestha (17), and her in laws, and does not have a house maid to help in her daily chores.

“The biggest reason for not having a house help are the timings of everyone in the family. We, both husband and I are working professionals and my daughter is studying for her HSC exams,” explained Jyoti.

Their medium sized home a 2 BHK is well Mintained and adequately furnished. We have shared the chores in a way that there is no burden on one person. Of course I do all the cooking, but on holidays my daughter and husband help too, where they help cut the vegetables, or my daughter pitches in cleaning the vessels. We also have my in laws living with us sometimes, then, my moter in law too pitches in to help, like for example, if I have to leave early for work or have a meeting, we take turns in cleaning and cooking. We don’t see it a necessity to have maid, for one thing, their cleaning may not be up to our satisfaction and then one has to adjust our life according to their schedules too, hence, we are very happy with the routine that we have set up for us. I prefer ot cook, clean on my own and be happy about it,” said Jyoti who grew up in a house with four sisters and a maid.

Tech takes over

With several apps and housekeeping services in the market, some families have opted to go the tech way over domestic help too. Sachin Kubade, CEO of a firm that specialises in property cleaning services says, “Over the past few years, we have seen a steady increase in requests for home cleaning and other cleaning services. These families prefer deep and complete cleaning of the whole home. They have maids who do the dusting and sweeping through the day, but once a month they want a thorough clean drive.”

He adds that the use of chemicals and certain products are done best by experts. “You cannot expect anyone and everyone to handle cleaning equipment; it should be done with expertise. Similarly, festivals are the time when we get the most requests.”

Agreeing with the facility is Usha Deshmukh, a homemaker, who appoints a cleaning service once a month. “They are particular, professional and do the job with no yapping. The house help I had before would spend time gossiping and telling stories about the entire neighbourhood. So, I prefer the professional team to come and do the work instead. Apps such as urban clap and local services also provide some good daily prospects at cheap rates.”

Internet savvy

Today, domestic helps are better educated and some of them have adapted to technology quite smartly. Ashwini Salve, 28, a cook, diligently texts the lady of the home she works for to plan the menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner on her phone.

She draws up a grocery and vegetable shopping list similarly and this is how she has been working for the last two years now. “The family I work for, has given the entire kitchen responsibility to me. I plan the menu with madam every evening on message. We discuss and make changes if necessary and then the next day, I cook for the entire day in the morning.”

Messaging applications are a boon for these women, especially since they can just send a text about anything. Domestic helps Rekha Kadam, 37 and Sandhya Kedari, 45, are also completely dependent on their phones when it comes to their work. Sandhya shares, “I use my phone to inform them if I am taking leave or if I am late. It makes sense to keep them updated. Also, I check out recipes and stuff on my phone, so this way, I can feed them new dishes. The couple, who I work for treat me like family. We also exchange greetings on messages every morning.”

Sarika Phanse, 38 has been working with a Dhole Patil Road family for 23 years and has learned the ropes on the go. “They have a washing machine and other latest equipment, they have taught me how to use it all. I just have to follow instructions.”

Traditional ways

While most have taken to technology and opted to use smartphones to make work easier, there is a lot that goes by the traditional way. Surekha Kamble, 55, has been working for the past 40 years in the same household. Her job includes cleaning and cooking. “I ensure I am on time and inform them well in advance of leaves. This way, I don’t have to depend on a phone to contact them. The place is like second home and I thoroughly enjoy working there.”

On this note, Abha Surwade, a media professional, shares, “Our house help has been with use for over ten years now, and we can without hesitation say that she makes life a lot simpler and easier. She knows the working of each person in the house and ensures that everything is always ready for everyone in the house. Right from cooking, to mopping, to washing dishes.. everything is taken care of by her. She hardly ever throws tantrums, quite accommodating that way. She doesn’t have a mobile phone and isn’t keen on using one even if gifted! So if there’s ever any emergency or if she needs to contact us, she tells her daughter to call us and inform us.”

Given the stressful times we live in, a good domestic help is indeed a blessing for present-day nuclear families where, not only is the couple working long hours but there are children and the elderly to be taken care of. In such a situation, having a good domestic help is of paramount importance. But along with, the time has come for family members to chip in and share household work and become independent effortlessly, as and when required.